Mother Pelican
A Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability

Vol. 13, No. 4, April 2017
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
Home Page
Front Page


Advances in Sustainable Development


This supplement attempts to be a radar screen for recent/emerging/forthcoming advances in sustainable development. In selecting items for this supplementary page, priority is given to information about publications and tools with an educational and human-centric focus. This update includes the following reminders that sustainable development has a human face:

1. Suggestions for Prayer, Study, and Action
2. News, Publications, Tools, and Conferences
3. Advances in Sustainable Development
4. Advances in Integral Human Development
5. Advances in Integrated Sustainable Development
6. Sustainability Games, Databases, and Knowledgebases
7. Sustainable Development Measures and Indicators
8. Sustainable Development Modeling and Simulation
9. Fostering Sustainability in the International Community
Note: Items in this page are updated as information is received and as time permits. If the reader knows about new pubs/tools that should be announced in this page, please write to the Editor.




1. Suggestions for Prayer, Study, and Action


Prayer for Serenity and Perseverance

"Do not be daunted
by the enormity of the world's grief.
Do justly, now.
Love mercy, now.
Walk humbly, now.
You are not obligated to complete the work,
but neither are you free to abandon it."

The Talmud
Talmud Readers by Adolf Behrman


Doughnut Economics for Social/Ecological Justice

Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist, suggests seven key concepts for transitioning from the illusion of "endless growth" to a realistic goal of "thriving in balance" for humanity and the human habitat: 1. Change the goal -- from GDP to Doughnut. 2. See the big picture -- from self-contained market to embedded economy. 3. Nurture human nature -- from rational economic man to social adaptable humans. 4. Get savvy with systems -- from mechanical equilibrium to dynamic complexity. 5. Design to distribute -- from 'growth will even it up again' to distributive design. 6. Create to regenerate -- from 'growth will clean it up again' to regenerative by design. 7. Be agnostic about growth -- from growth addicted to growth agnostic.


Local and Global Action for the Common Good

The Elders

The Elders are an independent group of global leaders working together for peace and human rights. Contact them and support their work for the common good. See personal stories of people making a difference in their communities.

2. News, Publications, Tools, and Conferences



Sustainability Science (PNAS)

Science of the Anthopocene

The Anthropocene Review


Environmental Research Letters

Progress in Industrial Ecology

Environmental Leader

Sustainable Development Magazine

Monthly Energy Review

The Environment Nexus

Energy and Climate News

BURN Energy Journal

Environmental News Network

Planet Ark
World Environmental News

Mother Earth News

Climate Action News

Sustainable Development Media

World Pulse


Environmental Science & Technology


WiserEarth News

New Internationalist

The Global Journal

Trade & Environment Nexus

Yes! Magazine

Human Development News

Science Daily
Earth & Climate News
Sustainability News
Science & Society News

International Institute for
Sustainable Development (IISD)
Reporting Services

Policy-Strategy Coverage

Sustainable Development Policy & Practice
Sustainable Development - Small Islands
Biodiversity Policy & Practice
Climate Change Policy & Practice
Energy Policy Issues
Multilateral Environmental Agreements
Earth Negotiations Bulletin

Theme Coverage

Sustainable Development
Biodiveristy & Wildlife
Chemicals Management
Climate & Atmosphere
Forests - Deserts - Land
Human Development
Intergovernmental Organizations
Trade & Investment
Water - Oceand - Wetlands

Regional Coverage

Lating America & Caribbean
Near East
North America
South West Pacific

Rio+20 Coverage

Sustainable Development Conference
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
4-6 June 2012

United Nations News Service
Rio+20: Making it Happen
UN Sustainable Development News
UN Gender Equality News

Value News Network

Catholic News Service

Anglican Communion News Service

Ekklesia Christian News Bulletin

Religion News Service

LiveScience News

Inter Press Service (PSI)

Triple Bottom Line
CSR News

The Progress Report

Global Health News

Kosmos Journal

Environment & Technology
Scholarly Journals

Environment & Society Section
American Sociological Association


Eldis Development Newsfeeds

General - all subjects

Newsfeeds by Subject

Ageing populations
Aid and debt
Children and young people
Climate Change
Climate adaptation
Corporate responsibility
Finance policy
Food security
Health systems
ICT for development
Influencing policy
Jobs, Events and Announcements
Manuals and toolkits
Trade policy

Newsfeeds by Region

East Asia and Pacific
Latin America and Caribbean
Middle East and North Africa
South Asia



2017 World Happiness Report
United Nations, 20 March 2017

International Women's Day 2017:
Gender Equality

European Union, 8 March 2017

Value in the Commons Economy:
Developments in Open and
Contributory Value Accounting

Heinrich-Böll-Foundation & P2P Foundation
February 2017

Existential Risk:
Diplomacy and Governance

Global Priorities Project, January 2017

BP Energy Outlook 2017
British Petroleum, January 2017

Human Rights World Report 2017
Human Rights Watch, January 2017

Climate on the Line
Oil Change International
January 2017

World Energy Outlook 2016
IEA, November 2016

Emissions Gap Report 2016
UNEP, November 2016

Atlas of the Human Planet 2016
Publications Office of the European Union
October 2016

Living Planet Report 2016
World Wildlife Fund, 2016

State of the World Population 2016
UNFPA, October 2016

Pathways to Urban Sustainability
National Academies USA, October 2016

State of Nature 2016
RSPB, UK, September 2016

World Population Data Sheet 2016
Population Reference Bureau, 2016

Frontiers in Decadal Climate Variability
National Academy of Sciences
July 2016

Annual Energy Outlook 2016
Energy Information Administration
July 2016

The Future of Jobs
World Economic Forum, July 2016

State of the World's Children
UNICEF, June 2016

Pollution in People
Environmental Working Group
June 2016

2016 Multidimensional Poverty Index
Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative
June 2016

2016 Global Peace Index
Institute for Economics and Peace
June 2016

The Price of Privilege
ActionAid, April 2016

Global Trends in
Renewable Energy Investment

UNEP, March 2016

Next Generation Earth System Prediction
NAS, March 2016

World Happiness Report
UNSDSN, 20 March 2016

One Humanity: Shared Responsibility
UN Secretary General
World Humanitarian Summit
May 2016 (Draft)

Global Trends & Opportunities
2016 and Beyond

SustainAbility, February 2016

Transitioning Toward Sustainability:
Advancing the Scientific Foundation

National Academy of Sciences
January 2016

World Economic
Situation and Prospects

UNDESA & UNCTAD, January 2016

Automation & Connectivity:
The Fourth Industrial Revolution

UBS/WEF, January 2016

Digital Dividends
World Development Report 2016

World Bank, January 2016

Global Risks Report 2016
World Economic Forum (WEF)
January 2016

Dirty Toys Made in China
Global Labor and Human Rights
December 2015

Call for an Ethical Framework for Climate Services
WMO, 12 November 2015

2015 Energy Trilemma Index
World Energy Council, November 2015

Global Wealth Report 2015
Credit Suisse, October 2015

The Challenge of Resilience
in a Globalised World

Joint Research Centre, EU, October 2015

Climate Change and the U.S. Energy Sector
US Department of Energy, October 2015

Pathways to Deep Decarbonization
UN SDSN, October 2015

Playing to Win:
The New Global Competition
for Corporate Profits

McKinsey Global Institute, September 2015

America's Future:
Environmental Research and Education
for a Thriving Century

NSF, September 2015

2015-16 State of the Future
Jerome C. Glenn, Elizabeth Florescu, et al
Millennium Project, 2015

Transforming our World: The 2030
Agenda for Sustainable Development
Finalized text for adoption,
United Nations, 1 August 2015

World Water Development Report
United Nations, July 2015

World Population Prospects
United Nations, July 2015

Climate Change: A Risk Assessment
Centre for Science and Policy
Cambridge University, July 2015

Democratic Equality, Economic Inequality,
and the Earth Charter

Steven C. Rockefeller
Earth Charter, 29 June 2015

Climate Change in the United States:
Benefits of Global Action

EPA, June 2015

Renewables 2015
Global Status Report

REN21, June 2015

Demographic Vulnerability Report
Population Institute, June 2015

FAO and Post-2015:
Nourishing People,
Nourishing the Planet

FAO, May 2015

Global Financial Stability Report
IMF, April 2015

World Happiness Report
United Nations, April 2015

National Footprint Accounts
Global Footprint Network, March 2015

Health & Fracking:
Impacts & Opportunity Costs

MEDACT, March 2015

Global Sustainable Investment
Clean Technica, 26 February 2015

World Report 2015
Human Rights Watch, 12 February 2015

Short-Term Renewable Energy Outlook
U.S. EIA, 10 February 2015

Global Risks Report 2015
WEF, January 2015

World Energy Outlook 2014
IEA, 12 November 2014

Beyond Downscaling:
A Bottom-Up Approach
to Climate Adaptation
for Water Resources Management
AGWA, October 2014

2014 Global Hunger Index
IFPRI, October 2014

The New Climate Economy
United Nations, September 2014

Living Planet Report 2014
Global Footprint Network, September 2014

Sustainable Development Goals
and Inclusive Development

UNU-IAS, September 2014

Sustainable Development Goals
and Indicators for a Small Planet
Part II: Measuring Sustainability

ASEF, August 2014

The Plain Language Guide
to Rio+20: Preparing for the
New Development Agenda

Felix Dodds et al, 28 July 2014

Human Development Report 2014
UNDP, 24 July 2014

Millennium Development Goals
Report 2014

UNDP, 7 July 2014

Global Sustainable Development
Report (GSDR)

UN DSD, 1 July 2014

Agreeing on Robust Decisions:
New processes for decision making
under deep uncertainty

World Bank, June 2014

Early Childhood Development:
The Foundation of
Sustainable Human Development
for 2015 and Beyond

UN SDSN, 4 May 2014

What’s In A Name?
Global Warming vs Climate Change

Yale Environment, May 2014

World Health Statistics 2014
WHO, 2014

The Arctic in the Anthropocene:
Emerging Research Questions
, National Academy of Sciences, 2014

Annual Energy Outlook 2014
US EIA, 30 April 2014

Global Trends in
Renewable Energy Investment 2014

UNEP-Bloomberg, April 2014

International Human Development Program
Annual Report 2013

IHDP, April 2014

Momentum for Change 2013
UNFCCC, 2014

Global Gender Gap Index 2013
WEF, April 2014

NAPAs and NAPs in
Least Developed Countries

Gabrielle Kissinger & Thinley Namgyel
ECBI, March 2014

Water & Energy 2014
United Nations, 21 March 2014

Inclusive and Sustainable
Industrial Development

UNIDO, March 2014

What We Know:
The Reality, Risks, and Response
to Climate Change

AAAS, March 2014

The State of Natural Capital
UK NCC, March 2014

Women's Lives and Challenges:
Equality and Empowerment since 2000

USAID, March 2014

Climate Change: Evidence & Causes
NAS/RS, 27 February 2014

Beyond 2014 Global Report
ICPD, 16 February 2014

World Youth Report 2013:
Youth Migration and Development

UN-DESA, 14 February 2014

State of the World's Children 2014
UNICEF, January 2014

Global Land Use:
Balancing Consumption
with Sustainable Supply

UNEP-IRP, January 2014

Sustainability Investment Yearbook 2014
RobecoSAM, January 2014



Input-Output Tables for
Regional Footprint Analysis

NTNU/TNO/SERI, January 2015

Sustainable Society Index 2014
SSI, 17 December 2014

CAIT Equity Explorer
WRI, October 20114

WBCSD Tools Box

Post-2015 SDGs Target Database
Project on Sustainability Transformation
Ministry of the Environment, Japan

Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA)
Sustainable Development Evaluation Tool

UNDP, 16 September 2014

2014 Global Peace Index (GPI)
Institute for Economics and Peace, 2014

UN CC: Learn Climate Change
United Nations, 2014

Global Consumption Database
World Bank, 2014

LEAP Scenario Explorer:
Long-range Energy Alternatives Planning

Stockholm Environmental Institute, 2014

Momentum for Change Interactive
UNFCCC, 2014

Sustainable Human Development Index (SHDI)
IFMR LEAD, Tamil Nadu, India

Environment & Gender Index (EGI)

Livelihood Strategies
Knowledge Bank

Development Cafe

Global Forest Watch System
World Resources Institute

WomanStats & World Maps
WomanStats Project

Scenario Modelling and Policy Assessment Tool

European Union

OPEN EUOne Planet Economy Network
European Union

Constitutional Gender Database
UN Women

OpenGeoSci Maps
GeoScience World

Earth Data Website


2013 Legatum Prosperity Index
Legatum Institute

Global Slavery Index 2013
Walk Free Foundation

Food Policy Network Resource List
School of Public Health
Johns Hopkins University

Water Change Modelling System

Earth Charter Virtual Library
Earth Charter Initiative

Resource & Documentation Centre
European Gender Equality Institute

Climate Justice Research Database
Mary Robinson Foundation

Distribution Centre

Climate Data, Simulations, and Synthesis
Data on Related Socio-Economic Factors

Nitrogen Footprint Calculator
ECN & Oxford University

Exploring Oil Data
Open Oil

Sustainability SWOT (sSWOT) Analysis Tool
World Resources Institute

CAIT Climate Data Explorer
World Resources Institute

Sustainable Technologies Databases
EWBI International

Renewable Energy Interactive Map

Global Transition to a New Economy
Interactive Map

New Economics Institute

Map of Climate Think Tanks

Energy Access Interactive Tool

Long Range Energy Alternatives
Planning System (LEAP)

SEI Energy Community

Industrial Efficiency Policy Database

Technology Cost Database for Renewables

Mapping the Global Transition
to a New Economy

New Economics Institute

Open Source Software for
Crowdsourcing for Energy Analysis


Adaptation Support Tool

Terra Populus:
Integrated Data on
Population and Environment

NSF & University of Minnesota

Environmental Performance Index
Interactive Map & Database

EPI, Yale University

Environmental Data Explorer

Clean Energy Information Portal

Mapping the Impacts of Climate Change

Eye on Earth
Global Mapping


Database of Actions on Adaptation
to Climate Change


Climate Scoreboard
Climate Interactive

Calculator of the
Carbon Footprint of Nations


Geospatial Toolkit (GsT) for
Integrated Resource Assessment


Climate Impact Equity Lens (CIEL)
Stockholm Environment Institute

Global Adaptation Index
Global Adaptation Institute

Gridded Population of the World
CIESIN, Columbia University

The New eAtlas of Gender
World Bank

Statistics and Tools
for Gender Analysis

World Bank

Gender Statistics Database
World Bank

Live World Data
The Venus Project

Clean Energy Analysis Software

RETScreen International

IGES CDM Methodology Parameter Data

IGES Emission Reductions Calculation Sheet

OECD Sustainable Manufacturing Toolkit

OECD Family Database

OECD Social Expenditure Database

Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services
and Tradeoffs (InVEST)

Natural Capital Project

Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC)
NASA & Columbia University

IGES GHG Database

Emission Factors Database

Forestry Industry Carbon Assessment Tool
Green Resources, Tanzania

Agent-based Computational Economics
of the Global Energy System


Climate Hot Map
Union of Concerned Scientists

Solar Thermal Barometer


Forest Monitoring for Action

Water Evaluation And Planning System

Global Land Tool Network

UN-Energy Knowledge Network
Multi-dimensional Energy Poverty Index (MEPI)
and Energy Development Index (EDI)

Measuring Energy Poverty
Visualization Platform


United Nations Data
UN Statistics Database
UN MDG Indicators
UN Human Development Index (HDI)

Humanity's Footprint Data
Ecological Footprint
Footprint for Nations
Footprint for Cities
Footprint for Business
Carbon Footprint
Personal Footprint
Footprint & Biodiversity
Footprint & Human Development

Earth Policy Institute Data Sets
Population, Health, and Society
Natural Systems
Climate Change
Energy Resources
Transportation Systems
Food and Agriculture
Economics & Development

World Bank
World Development Indicators (WDI)
World Bank

Sustainable Society Index
StatPlanet Interactive Map

Interactive Mapping of
Population and Climate Change

Population Action International

Global Advocates Toolbox
Population Action International

Teaching and Learning
for a Sustainable Future:
Dissemination and Training Toolbox


Economic Input-Output
Life Cycle Assessment (EIO-LCA)

Green Design Institute
Carnegie Mellon University



Conference Alerts
Find Conferences Worldwide
by Topic, Country, or Keywords.

Calls for Papers
Find Calls for Papers Worldwide
by Specialization, Country, or Keywords.

Journal Articles
The latest Tables of Contents
from thousands of scholarly journals
Search by journal title, ISNN, or keywords

Selected Announcements

35th International Conference
of the System Dynamics Society

Cambridge, Massachusetts USA
16-20 July 2017
Contact: Roberta Spencer

Sustainability Transformations
Future Earth
University of Dundee, Scotland, UK
August 30-September 1, 2017

17th Congress of the
Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN)

Portuguese National Parliament
Lisboa, Portugal
25-27 September 2017
Contact: BIEN 2017

3. Advances in Sustainable Development

Taming Complexity:
From Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)
Interactions to Policy Priorities

Caspar Trimmer

Originally published by
Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), 26 March 2017
under a Creative Commons License

Photo: Sam Dredge / Flickr

SEI is developing practical ways to reflect the interplay of goals and targets in Agenda 2030 implementation strategies.

One of the most revolutionary aspects of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is that its goals and targets should be treated as an indivisible, and integrated, whole. Back in September 2015, this principle was broadly welcomed, particularly by those worried that too much focus on economic growth was harming long-term environmental and social sustainability – or vice versa.

But faced with the reality of governance and policy set-ups and the sheer variety of ways that the 169 targets under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can interact, policy-makers tasked with drawing up national implementation strategies have often found themselves quickly overwhelmed.

“From the policy-makers we’ve spoken to in Sweden, and from what we’re hearing from partners around the world, there is a real demand for practical ways to translate this integrated agenda into realistic policy ambitions,” says SEI’s Nina Weitz.

To meet this urgent need, SEI is developing a range of decision-support tools and methods to help identify strategic priorities, high-synergy pathways and cross-sectoral partnerships for practically implementing the 2030 Agenda.

Understanding interactions

Much of SEI’s pioneering work in this area builds on a 7-point scale proposed by Nilsson et al. in the journal Nature last year for characterizing SDG interactions. This scale rates interactions from the most positive, “indivisible” (scored as +3), through “consistent” (0) to the most negative, “cancelling” (–3). In doing so it moves thinking about interactions beyond the language of trade-offs and synergies to allow far more nuanced, and policy-relevant, assessments.

A forthcoming SEI Working Paper applies this scale to characterize interactions emanating from six SDG goals. It looks at how targets under these goals interact with other SDG targets, how far this interaction is affected by context, and the state of the evidence and knowledge base around the interaction.

Based on analyses by Måns Nilsson for the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), the paper focuses on the six SDG goals that will come under the spotlight at this year’s High-Level Political Forum process: Goals 1, 2, 3, 5, 9 and 14.

“This work highlighted the very different ways goal areas interact. For example, we couldn’t find a single target that would suffer from more gender equality and empowerment of women – Goal 5 – or poverty reduction – Goal 1– and several targets that would benefit significantly,” says Nilsson. “In contrast, there are risks of severe negative interactions with environmental and water access targets if we go about meeting the targets under Goal 2, on food, the wrong way.”

From complexity to practical policy options

While the 7-point scale makes it easier to talk about interactions, applying it to more targets only emphasizes how difficult it is to translate them into policy options in a specific context.

“It’s like a jack-in-the-box,” says Weitz. “Once you recognize that any two SDG targets could influence each other in one or both directions, and then rate each of those interactions on the 7-point scale, and then recognize that each of those targets potentially interacts with yet other targets in ways that might feed back on the original pair, the number of interactions to consider becomes astronomical.”

To try and pull actionable insights out of this complexity, a team including Weitz and Nilsson, along with Henrik Carlsen and Kristian Skånberg, is applying cross-impact balance analysis methodology, combined with network analysis tools, to map and visualize key interactions between a selection of SDG targets in the Swedish context. “By treating them as a system, way we can identify and visually map the interactions that have the biggest influence in a given context or for a given actor, helping to identify strategic priorities for investment and policy action,” says Weitz. The team hopes to publish a paper and brief from the study in the spring of 2017.

In another project, SEI is working with the Swedish Steel Producers Association, Jernkontoret, and Swedish steel producers to develop a “societal value compass” for the industry – a methodology and set of tools to assess how the industry as a whole, or a given steel producer, could influence sustainability and societal value. The “compass” will utilize cross-impact balance analysis applied to the SDGs and social capital theory to define sustainable pathways.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Caspar Trimmer is a science writer and editor with SEI’s global communications team. Prior to joining SEI he spent seven years with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in a combined editorial and communications role. From 1995 until 2006 he worked in China and Southeast Asia for a variety of high-profile clients, including the FAO, UNICEF, UNDP, ILO, UNIFEM, Save the Children and the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies. He has also worked as a subeditor at a national newspaper in Thailand and as a researcher at a leading brand-management agency.

4. Advances in Integral Human Development

The Community and Ascetic Dimensions
of Christian Ecological Commitment

Jaime Tatay Nieto, SJ

Originally published in
EcoJesuit, 31 January 2017
under a Creative Commons License


Many continue to examine the motivating factors behind the promulgation of Laudato si’ (LS), the first “ecological” encyclical in the history of Church social teaching.  The subject of LS goes far beyond the Catholic community and concerns every person who believes in a God who can act out of love, intervenes in history and delivers the gift of creation.  And yet the question remains: should religious people get involved in a discussion about the environment, apparently so technical, and far-removed from faith?

Scientists, economists, politicians and military personnel are becoming increasingly interested in issues related to the challenge of sustainability.  Pollution, disruption of climate patterns, destruction of the ozone layer, soil degradation, access to and quality of water, loss of biodiversity, depletion of renewable and non-renewable resources, and the recovery of nitrogen and phosphorus cycles – to name but a few of the planetary problems identified by the scientific community – are issues that have mobilised concerned societal actors.

Returning to the question with which we began: what sense does it have for religions in general and the Catholic Church in particular to enter this discussion? What motivates their interest?  What legitimizes their intervention?  What is their contribution?

The community dimension

The ecclesial or community dimension of the Christian experience is one of the main contributions that the Church can make to the discussion on sustainability.  Along with proposals that seek to empower the consumer, educate the citizen and transform the political establishment through individual voting behaviour, the Church insists that we cannot ignore the community dimension when articulating operational responses to contemporary challenges.  Pope Francis prioritizes the community as a unit of analysis and social action.  There are several reasons why he chose this community approach rather than more individualistic proposals that characterize most environmental approaches.

Firstly, LS points out that “self-improvement on the part of individuals will not by itself remedy the extremely complex situation facing our world today.” (LS 219)  The modern individual is overwhelmed by the complexity and number of decisions that must be made, and however well-informed and well-intentioned, there is a need to support oneself and sustain this commitment through community networks.  Furthermore, there is a spiritual dimension: a community is a stimulus and a source of motivation because it is “called into being by one Father, all of us are linked by unseen bonds and together form a kind of universal family, a sublime communion.” (LS 89)

Secondly, this cosmic communion consisting of “the sublime fraternity with all creation which Saint Francis of Assisi so radiantly embodied” (LS 221) is not the exclusive preserve of mystics.  It is in fact an invitation and task for all as members of a community that goes beyond the local realm, present time and human species.  To experience a “universal fraternity” (LS 228) cultivates a spiritual attitude: “an integral ecology includes taking time to recover a serene harmony with creation, reflecting on our lifestyle and our ideals, and contemplating the Creator who lives among us and surrounds us, whose presence “must not be contrived but found, uncovered.” (LS 225)

Thirdly, the centrality of the community dimension for sustainability also resonates with a central tradition in the history of Catholic social thought: the common good.  This is an economic and socio-political vision of a communitarian character as opposed to the individualist tradition of political liberalism.  Considering the misrule and accelerated degradation of the “global commons” (LS 174), the notion of the common good is receiving increased interest both inside and outside the Church.

For instance, when Pope Francis affirms that “the climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all” (LS 23), he is pointing out that we cannot limit ourselves to a merely physical or economic analysis of the reality we call climate.  Instead there is a need to understand it as a common good in respect of which “the sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfilment.” (LS 156)  Spirituality acquires great relevance in relation to the perception and promotion of the common good: “Inner peace is closely related to care for ecology and for the common good.” (LS 225)

The ascetic dimension

Alongside the community dimension, asceticism also stands out as a typically religious contribution to the subject of sustainability.  Ascetic practices such as fasting, abstinence and almsgiving, undertaken with the aim of purifying one’s relationship with God and with others, offer a significant element that other actors in our cultural context are not able to propose.  These practices cultivate virtues of sobriety, detachment, and simplicity of life which articulate an integrated spiritual experience, and are relevant to an over-exploited planet, possessing finite resources and a high socio-economic inequality.

Citing Benedict XVI, Pope Francis affirms that “we have a sort of ‘super-development’ of a wasteful and consumerist kind which forms an unacceptable contrast with the on-going situations of dehumanizing deprivation.” (LS 109)  Not only does the consumerist drive in the richest societies contrast with the persistent poverty amongst the rest of humanity, it is also the main cultural vector of environmental degradation.

Faced with this situation, the Church has spiritual resources that resonate deeply with a long tradition that values simplicity of life and solidarity.  This tradition, which has monastic roots and is conveyed during Lent and penitential ascetic practices, has a great potential to catalyse community transformations and for re-interpretation along ecological lines.

Thus, socio-political transformation and community action can go hand in hand with a spirituality of asceticism and voluntary simplicity.  The interweaving of spiritual and ecological benefits of asceticism is highlighted by Pope Francis’ proposal for Saint Francis of Assisi as an anthropological model for integral ecology.  “The poverty and austerity of Saint Francis were no mere veneer of asceticism, but something much more radical: a refusal to turn reality into an object simply to be used and controlled.” (LS 11)


With LS, Pope Francis has addressed a relatively new area for Catholic social thought – the subject of sustainability.  In so doing, he has allowed a fruitful exchange to take place between civil society, the scientific community and the business world.  This has been an ecumenical and interreligious dialogue in which the voice of religious traditions is being heard with surprising interest.

In this sense, LS is one of the greatest exercises in public theology of the last decades: it has questioned the political class, dialogued with the academy, and restored interest in the ecclesial institution.  And at the same time, LS has updated Catholic Social Teaching by including in its agenda the greatest concern of our time: the call to care for our common home.

This is a translated and edited version of an article Experiencia religiosa y Laudato si’  by Jaime Tatay Nieto, SJ which appeared in the journal Corintios XIII, Revista de teología y pastoral de la caridad, Julio-Septiembre 2016, n.º 159.

5. Advances in Integrated Sustainable Development

Integral Human Development and Subsidiarity

The Principle of Subsidiarity

Source: EZFord, YouTube, 23 February 2013

See also

"An issue or problem should be dealt with by the people who are closest to it"
Rudy Carrasco, PovertyCure Voice, 20 March 2012

Cardinal Reinhard Marx on Subsidiarity vs. Solidarity
Berkeley Center, Georgetown University, 20 June 2012

Integral Human Development and Subsidiarity: A Closer Look
Matthea Brandenburg & Carolyn Woo, Poverty Cure Voice, 10 January 2013

An Integrated Framework for Sustainable Development Goals
David Griggs et al, Ecology & Society, 19(4): 49, 2014

Integrated Approaches to Sustainable Development
Planning and Implementation

Capacity Building Workshop, United Nations, May 2015

6. Sustainability Games, Databases, and Knowledgebases

Source: Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS)

Accessing information from the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) has never been easier. The GEOSS Portal has undergone a transformation, to be unveiled in time for GEO’s Thirteenth Plenary.

The European Space Agency (ESA) in partnership with Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR) has built an intuitive interface to discover, access and use all of the ever-growing numbers of GEO-resources from a variety of providers all around the world.

Users can now perform temporal, thematic and geographic searches, allowing them to retrieve the resources they are looking for quickly and accurately. Keywords can be used to perform general searches and progressive filtering is applied to support users in refining and narrowing down their search results. A synthetic summary is presented of key metadata fields. Icon buttons help the user quickly assess the results' relevance. Make use of the GEOSS Portal’s feedback form and let us know what you think.

The team members that made this new look possible are: @CNR-side (GEO-DAB): Stefano Nativi and Mattia Santoro; @ESA-side (GEOSS Portal): Joost van Bemmelen, Guido Colangeli, Piotr Zaborowski; @Geo Secretariat-side: Paola De Salvo and Osamu Ochiai

Find tutorials on how to use the new GEOSS Portal here

Access the new look GEOSS Portal:

Read the full story on the enhanced GEOSS Portal here

Source: International Institute for Sustainable Development, 18 October 2016

A new online knowledge hub launched today provides an unparalleled view of multilateral, national and sub-national efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The International Institute for Sustainable Development’s SDG Knowledge Hub consolidates our Policy & Practice knowledgebases—and the tens of thousands of published articles contained within them. Focused on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and its Sustainable Development Goals, the platform draws on IISD’s network of experts to provide real-time information on SDG implementation.

“The development of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was one of the largest participatory processes ever,” said Scott Vaughan, President of the International Institute for Sustainable Development. “Information sharing, measurement and assessment will need to continue if the global community is to achieve the aims set out in the new agenda.”

“The SDG Knowledge Hub provides a much-needed space for that exchange to take place,” said Vaughan.

IISD experts are at the meetings we report on, talking to those involved, and gathering information from official, primary sources. We also develop partnerships with the institutions and organizations we cover, and publish original content from invited experts who are working on the frontlines of SDG implementation. The SDG Knowledge Hub does not aggregate news from other sources.

The SDG Knowledge Hub will be presented at an event in Geneva, Switzerland, on October 26th, and on a webinar on November 3rd. Register for the Geneva event here, and the webinar here.

The value of the hub lays in the depth of information it will contain on each SDG, as well as the breadth of knowledge across all elements of the integrated 2030 Agenda. Content is organized and searchable according to the 17 SDGs. Information is also categorized according to actors, focusing on intergovernmental bodies, agencies and funds within the UN system, as well as national governments, major partnerships, stakeholders and non-state actors. In addition, content is searchable by seven regional groups as well as three regional groupings of small island developing States. A comprehensive calendar provides details on events that address SDG policy and practice.

Users can also filter posts by issue area, action type and specific elements in SDG 17, on the global partnership. This filter permits users to focus in on news based on whether it addresses means of implementation (MOI), such as capacity building and education, or the following systemic issues: data, monitoring and accountability; multi-stakeholder partnerships; and policy and institutional coherence.

7. Sustainable Development Measures and Indicators

Sustainable Development Goals ~ Targets Tracker

Source: Overseas Development Institute (ODI)

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be the guiding framework for international development until 2030 and are intended to provide a reference for setting national policy priorities.

This unique, searchable database provides a snapshot of what those national priorities are. Users can compare existing national targets with the ambition of the SDGs. We intend this to be a living document, supplemented and kept up to date by crowdsourcing, and we encourage others to send us new information on national goals to update the tracker.

This research report: Mind the gap? A comparison of international and national targets for the SDG agenda, ODI, June 2015, documents the gaps and data issues that must be resolved if the SDGs are to be attained by 2030.

Please send any new information on national level targets in any of the areas covered by the SDGs to


Global Footprint Network's National Footprint Accounts 2015 Public Data Package

Ecological Footprint Infographics

Footprint Calculator


Links to Global Partnership Data for the SDGs:

1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition
3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being
4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education
5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
6. Ensure availability of water and sanitation
7. Ensure access to affordable and clean energy for all
8. Promote economic growth and decent work
9. Build resilient industrial infrastructures
10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
11. Make cities resilient and sustainable
12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production
13. Take urgent action to combat climate change
14. Conserve the oceans and marine resources
15. Protect terrestrial ecosystems and biodiversity
16. Promote peace and inclusive societies
17. Strengthen global partnership for sustainable development

Human Development Data (1980-2015)


8. Sustainable Development Modeling and Simulation

Modeling Sustainability:
Population, Inequality, Consumption, and
Bidirectional Coupling of the Earth and Human Systems

Safa Motesharrei et al

This article was originally published in
Oxford Journals National Science Review, 11 December 2016


Over the last two centuries, the impact of the Human System has grown dramatically, becoming strongly dominant within the Earth System in many different ways. Consumption, inequality, and population have increased extremely fast, especially since about 1950, threatening to overwhelm the many critical functions and ecosystems of the Earth System. Changes in the Earth System, in turn, have important feedback effects on the Human System, with costly and potentially serious consequences. However, current models do not incorporate these critical feedbacks. We argue that in order to understand the dynamics of either system, Earth System Models must be coupled with Human System Models through bidirectional couplings representing the positive, negative, and delayed feedbacks that exist in the real systems. In particular, key Human System variables, such as demographics, inequality, economic growth, and migration, are not coupled with the Earth System but are instead driven by exogenous estimates, such as UN population projections. This makes current models likely to miss important feedbacks in the real Earth-Human system, especially those that may result in unexpected or counterintuitive outcomes, and thus requiring different policy interventions from current models. The importance and imminence of sustainability challenges, the dominant role of the Human System in the Earth System, and the essential roles the Earth System plays for the Human System, all call for collaboration of natural scientists, social scientists, and engineers in multidisciplinary research and modeling to develop coupled Earth-Human system models for devising effective science-based policies and measures to benefit current and future generations.


Integrated Model for Sustainable Development Goals Strategies (iSDG)

Millennium Institute, 13 January 2016

"C-ROADS is an award-winning computer simulation that helps people understand the long-term climate impacts of policy scenarios to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It allows for the rapid summation of national greenhouse gas reduction pledges in order to show the long-term impact on our climate." For more information, click here.


9. Fostering Sustainability in the International Community

Morality and Ethics in the Global Age

Eric Gans

This article was originally published in
Chronicles of Love and Resentment, 25 March 2017

L: Rene Girard (1923-2015) R: Eric Gans ~ Photo Credit: Grow Mercy
Anthropologist Eric Gans considers that human language has as its original and primary function the deferral of violence. Readers who seek remedies to social/ecological violence driven by the "scapegoating mechanism" may want to explore the work of Rene Girard as summarized, for example, in Mimetic Theory 101.

It is easier to understand the domestic American situation than to conceive what might be the future evolution of “global” civilization. Clearly we are not yet ready for world government, and the United Nations, which may do good in some of its auxiliary functions, seems increasingly less worthy of respect. Trump’s UN appointees’ expressions of impatience with its barely disguised antisemitism are long overdue, but it is difficult to imagine them turning the body around. The Jews remain, for their glory and suffering, the “chosen people” of the West, and the UN’s chief merit has been to make clear how little this has changed over the centuries.

If Israel is particularly hated because the very idea of a “Jewish state” appears as a contradiction in terms, this has at least the merit of clarifying the crux of the current conflict: the self-affirmation of the nation apart from humanity as a whole. The persistent hostility of our European allies to Israel’s national self-affirmation—the US hypocritically abstained on Resolution 2334, but France and England voted for it—coincides par contraste with Brexit and other signs of a recrudescence of national identity. There are still-inchoate rumblings of reaction against the West’s persistent victimocracy, in many ways far worse in Europe than in the US, and even less helpful in the long run to the far larger unassimilated population whose interests it purports to advance.

Israel has recently become more nationalistic in response to the intransigence of those who continually demand concessions of it and offer nothing in return. The European countries face no such existential threats, but the influx of Muslim immigration has made them increasingly aware of the problems caused by weakly assimilated populations in a culture that has become reluctant to affirm any kind of national or even civilizational identity.

Just as the Jews as the “first nation” are the natural targets of anti-nationalist reaction, so the Muslims, the faithful of a religion that denies the legitimacy of nationality, are the poster children for this new fear, even as they profit from the post-Hitlerian victimary reaction to any hint of collective firstness.

The strange symbiosis between Islam and the post-nationalist West is not hard to explain. Islam was the first real global ideology, and however retrograde the tribalism that is the local organizing principle in virtually all “Islamic” states, its hostility to Western and above all to Jewish nationalism makes it a secret ally, and, with Africa exemplifying the recipient of “post-colonialist” charity, the ideal victimary entity to oppose to Western “imperialism.” The more the jihadists give us excellent reasons for “Islamophobia,” the more the latter can be moralistically denounced.

It suffices to stand back a little, not easy in the midst of screaming mobs, to become aware of how simple these configurations really are. It is fascinating how, despite the irrationalities that surround these issues, their crucial dimensions follow a kind of prophetic logic. What else is there after all in the West’s current malaise that cannot be summed up in its relationship with the two “Semitic” peoples? Antisemitism has returned as a serious problem in Europe despite the paucity of Jews, its virulent Near-Eastern Islamic strain provoked by the scandal of Israel’s existence and vastly multiplied by the fact that it is so much more successful and productive than its neighbors. Not to speak of the fact that the UN never spent a dime on its “refugees”—let alone after 70 years—while lavishing funds on its corrupt and inefficient Palestinian counterpart. What could illustrate better than the obscene comparisons between the IDF and the SS and the talk of Palestinian “genocide” the accuracy of Girard’s aphorism that “Hitlerism avenges its defeat by making the concern for victims [le souci des victimes] despairing, caricatural” (Je vois Satan tomber comme l’éclair [Grasset, 1999]: 271; my translation).

The notion of firstness, which entered GA as a result of Adam Katz’s clarification concerning the necessarily non-unanimous onset of the conversion of the originary aborted gesture of appropriation into a unanimous sign, has remained, in my usage at least, deliberately vague, in contrast to the elegant symmetry of the “moral model” that the reciprocal exchange of signs would ultimately embody. This passage from firstness to equality is, if not the inherent telos of historical evolution, at any rate its natural gradient. The moral model is our only real point of equilibrium. All hierarchies and dissymmetries in human relations are meant to exist only to eventually dissolve themselves for the benefit of all, whether the Last Judgment be, as wisdom once had it, divine, or that of the “final conflict” of the Internationale, or simply the ultimate result of “progress.” This is an insight that the Judeo-Christian world, and in its often perverse way the Muslim world as well, have set at the heart of their religious traditions. The question of who should be counted in the “all” in the short term, however, is not thereby resolved.

In contrast to our “moral instinct,” the resentment that drives enforcement of the moral model, conservatism’s basis in Edmund Burke’s reaction to the French Revolution has only “tradition” and “common sense” on its side. The difficulty is that unless guaranteed by a universally shared faith, these values, ethical rather than moral, can operate only so long as they remain unthematized. As the left has not forgotten since 1789, as soon as you begin to assert the “naturalness” of a social norm—opposing homosexual marriage, for example—you have already refuted your claim by plunging it into the cultural stream in which it cannot help but be swept along. Burkean conservatism is always a rear-guard action, a rational appeal to the irrational.

The essential political quality of Donald Trump, as Victor Davis Hanson has pointed out with his usual astuteness, is as a Burkean conservative, a non-ideological believer in our “traditional” and “common-sense” values. Many so-called conservatives have been repelled by Trump’s demotic crudeness. Why could we not find someone more refined and articulate than Trump to oppose the victimary? But one cannot operate in the real world with “counterfactual history.” Like many initially repulsed by him, I have learned to admire what can only be called his political genius.

Trump’s triumph only goes to show that there was no opportunity for someone who could actually articulate an anti-victimary position rather than signal one with tweets and occasional enormities. Rather than take this out on the one whose insight saved us from another four or more years of ever more noxious victimocracy (though perhaps less hostile to Israel), we should focus on the problem itself.

There are plenty of intellectuals on the right, not all of whom were caught up in the fatuous never-Trump crusade. But none of these would have been capable of embodying the anti-victimary position, even with all the caveats attached to Trump’s embodiment of it. Whether or not he is a “true conservative” according to the latest post-Burkean definition, he was the only viable candidate to reject the kind of White Guilt-saturated victimary thinking that has become second nature to most “right-thinking” people. The instinctive reaction of such people after every jihadist massacre—which mainstream US (though no longer European) newspapers, e.g., the LA Times’ first report of the recent Westminster Bridge incident, still avoid until absolutely unavoidable associating in any way with Islam—is to express fear for the ever-menacing backlash against innocent Muslims. As I have said, if such people had been around on December 7, 1941, they would have warned us against Nipponophobia.

What this suggests is less lack of courage than of an ethical vocabulary that can defend firstness without recourse to the traditional religious bulwark of ethical values. The real point of victimary thinking, as I have said repeatedly, is to impose ascriptive discrimination as the model for all inequalities of outcome, and thereby to explain away all humiliating differentials of success by “disparate impact.” In a developed world that still lives by but can no longer defend the idea of national difference, that grieves for every unsuccessful boatload of economic migrants crossing the Mediterranean but whose very existence depends on it not being so easy to cross, there is virtually no form of social order that cannot be condemned for “disparate impact” at its most extreme. Hence as “Godwin’s Law” makes clear, comparisons with Hitler are not about to go out of style. Although it is easy for me to say this, it is not possible for any politician, even Donald Trump, to clearly articulate it. Indeed, as the whole history of GA and even to some extent of “mimetic theory” has shown, the only way to get to the bottom of these anthropological problems today is to stay out of the “public sphere.”

But to say one cannot say something is nevertheless already to say it, and this reminds us that Trump’s inarticulateness is after all only relative. No doubt he will fall into many of the victimary clichés that have become our second nature; he is not, indeed, a consistent ideologically-driven affirmer of firstness like the Alt-Right that the left loves to assimilate him to, as though he were ready to send his beloved Ivanka to the gas chamber. Nor need we fear that Trump’s enormities, like complaining when a hostile judge is “Mexican,” will by his example become respectable. But we can have some assurance that the more extreme forms of the victimary already openly mocked on the right, such as “safe spaces” and “micro-aggressions,” will become less so.

Firstness cannot and should not be treated as a moral principle on the same level as moral equality. The attempt to ground any such attempt on a firm ontology produces something like the Nazi ideology of the Master Race—for which btw the now-sainted Nietzsche, not to speak of Heidegger, provided much of the ammunition.

As John Rawls demonstrated in his own quasi-originary way, difference must always be justified by its contribution to reciprocity. The difficulty of the current stage of the modern economy is that as it grows more productive and more creative, it puts an increasing premium on the manipulation of symbols as opposed to things. This was humanity’s originary distinction from the animals, but until recently its development beyond the universally accessible level of ordinary conversation remained a minority activity. It is only with modern robotics and digital technology that the direct manipulation of things, for which we are all more or less gifted, has increasingly given way to highly technical forms of symbol-manipulation, putting our essential humanity into question as never before.

For indeed the fundamental guarantee of our moral equality is our common ability to exchange words, and as Seth Saunders brings out in his The Invention of Hebrew (Illinois 2009), the great advance in religious insight that enabled the West’s ultimate modernization has its origin in the Hebrews’ democratization of writing. But if we can all read the Torah, the New Testament, or the Koran, not too many of us can decipher Gödel’s proof or Einstein’s paper on General Relativity.

It is always paradoxical to offer reasons to recommend the revival of religious faith. But inasmuch as the victimary functions in fact less as a principle of secular morality than as a sad caricature of Christianity, it has the potential to stimulate a revival of the real thing. Real Christians—and not only Christians—along with loving their enemies, which comes all too easily to those who idolatrize the resentment of their “victims,” are able to recognize evil. Love the sinner, hate the sin is not possible when one finds every excuse for not “judging” the victimary Other. All religions, Islam included, understand that all human beings belong to a single race.

These remarks are not meant as mere exhortations, but to express a certain optimism that the false virtue of victimary morality can be overcome. Along with Brexit and other European stirrings, Trump’s election is only a beginning, and it is regrettable but inevitable that many people will tend to focus on the imperfect messenger without grasping the importance of his message. But the clichés of one generation will more easily appear ridiculous to the next, and to the extent that the weakening of the victimocracy can actually produce some positive results in the schools, the economy, and the international scene by deculpabilizing the West’s capacity for the healthy promotion of firstness, it still remains possible for Western civilization to put itself back on its feet. Only then can it continue to pursue, necessarily in fits and starts, its apparent destiny to lift the rest of the world to its current level of human welfare and beyond.


Eric Gans is a literary scholar, philosopher of language, and cultural anthropologist. Since 1969, he has taught, and published on, 19th century literature, critical theory, and film in the UCLA Department of French and Francophone studies. Gans invented a new science of human culture and origins he calls Generative Anthropology, based on the idea that the origin of language was a singular event and that the history of human culture is a genetic or "generative" development of that event. For more information on this author, click here.


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Plato (428-348 BCE)


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